You might not realise it, but Foals are huge. Massive, in fact. You’ve probably found yourself humming one of their tracks over the last eight years, whether it’s the frantically mathy-indie gem Hummer, which encompasses everything that was brilliant about the late-Noughties era (fluorescent pink, jolted dance moves, tight tennis T-shirts). Or Spanish Sahara, which soundtracked that steamy Misfits episode (with a pre-Ramsay Iwan Rheon). And Inhaler, the mighty first single off third album Holy Fire, sits at 14 million listens on YouTube.
Thing is, they’ve never had a colossal hit. “I don’t think any of our singles have got into the Top 20,” Yannis Philippakis tells ShortList while digging into a lunch of chicken pitta gyros. “But we’ve built up slowly and organically through our live reputation. We’ve developed every record in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to if we’d had an overnight, intense pressure.”
The band will top the bill at the Reading and Leeds festivals for the first time this month, which is great news, obviously. But news that also might be a tad awkward, as Philippakis has previously bitched about old-timers clogging up festival line-ups. This year, then, it’s time to put his money where his mouth is. “We’re bored of seeing some dude from the Nineties headline,” he complained back in 2013, as it means newer bands don’t get a look in. Lots of people would agree. Festivals book the big hitters, the world-touring, wrinkled-by-rock OGs, the Chili Peppers of this world (who are, by no coincidence, the Saturday night headline act at Reading) because they present risk-free ticket sales.
Today, however, Philippakis is confident. “I’m glad, even just selfishly, that we’re headlining Reading rather than some old heritage band who have already headlined every festival on the circuit,” he says. “Hopefully it shows, without sounding too worthy about it, that you don’t need to do X, Y and Z in order to become to a bigger band. You don’t need to sort out your image or get your teeth whitened or start hanging out at the right place to be in a rock band.”
So what do you have to do? How do you earn your rock stripes? Luckily, Yannis is here to fill us in with a helpful 11-point guide.